On the Road with Mike

Earlier this summer I had the chance to see a legend perform. 86-year-old Tony Bennett put on a tremendous show singing hit after hit at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Tony mentioned that he’s looking forward to doing an upcoming album with Lady Gaga and said that he has great admiration for her. That should be an interesting collaboration. Can’t wait to hear what they come up with!

Around the League

Dwight Howard Photo ShootThe Miami Heat held up the championship trophy on June 20th, and a week later the 2013 NBA Draft was held in Brooklyn. Since then some veteran stars have relocated while others chose to remain with their current squads. Here’s a quick hits edition of the five most influential signings of the past few weeks:

The most speculated upon player this off-season was Dwight Howard. Entering his 10th pro campaign, the 27-year old, 7X All-Star, 5X Rebounding champ and 3X Defensive Player of the Year chose to depart the glitz and glamour of the Lakers and hitch on with the Rockets and head coach Kevin McHale. Howard was never truly comfortable in LA and it showed. He griped about Mike D’Antoni’s offense and his misuse. Nonetheless, Howard still led the league in boards, and when motivated he’s easily the best 5-man in the league.

Mikhail Prokhorov promised a winner when he bought the Nets a few years ago. With the acquisition via trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the rebuilding Celtics, Brooklyn now has the most talented first 5 in the league with PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson and C Brook Lopez. KG and The Truth may not have much left in the tank, but they will bring leadership and championship pedigree to a franchise that has struggled in the standings for so many years. And come the 2014 playoffs, these two won’t back down from anyone, including LeBron.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles ClippersThe Cleveland Cavaliers have the best young lead guard in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. And now they’ve gambled on the mercurial Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is one of the two or three best centers in the league. Only 6 million of Bynum’s two-year, 24-million-dollar contract with the Cavs is guaranteed, which is important in this case considering that Bynum played zero minutes last year for the 76ers due to knee issues. Entering his 9th year, Bynum is only 25 years old and has two championship rings from his time with Kobe and Co. If he can stay healthy this could be the best free agent signing of the summer.

The Golden State Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and then a few weeks later signed free agent Andre Iguodala away from them. Entering his 10th year, the above-average defender Iguodala brings a toughness and well rounded game to coach Mark Jackson’s relatively young team. Iggy’s career averages are impressive:  15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg. He is a strong, sturdy wing player who has played in all 82 games five times in his career.

I’m going to combine a player and coach for my final pick – Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. Paul is the best point guard in basketball and pushed hard for the Clippers to go out and get the respected Rivers. After 9 seasons in Boston, including a title and another trip to the Finals, Rivers expressed interest in departing the rebuilding C’s. He found the perfect landing spot with “LA’s second team.” The talented Clips are on the verge of making the jump to title contender. However, if CP3 had decided to leave via free agency, LA would have slipped back to average in the talent-heavy Western Conference.

Czar Trivia

Will the third team be a charm for newly signed Rocket Dwight Howard? Here are some fun facts to welcome Howard to Houston:

  • The total area of Houston is so large it could contain the cities of New York, Boston, and San Francisco combined.
  • Howard will be in good company if his rigorous NBA schedule keeps him too busy to cook. H-Town residents eat out more times a week than folks in any other American city.
  • Houston is home to the world’s largest livestock show. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo attracts more than 2.2 million visitors each year.
  • When the Apollo 11 moon lander touched down, Neil Armstrong said, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed,” making “Houston” the first word said on the moon. And Houston’s official nickname is appropriately “Space City.”
  • Dwight won’t get bored during the off-season. Houston is one of only five cities with professional resident companies in all four major performing arts disciplines: the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet and The Alley Theatre. Located downtown, the 17-block Theater District is home to eight performing arts organizations. With 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,580 movie seats, it’s second only to NYC as far as its concentration of seats in one area.

On the Road with Mike

Was great to catch up with some friends in Cleveland this week before heading to Ukraine. Grabbed breakfast with my multi-talented broadcast partner Matt Devlin, who was in town for the Blue Jays vs. Indians series. Also had a terrific dinner at Chef Rocco Whalen’s restaurant Fahrenheit with Hall-of-Fame Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. And I met up with legendary MLB shortstop Omar Vizquel at restaurateur Terry Tarantino’s La Dolce Vita.